BENEFITS chiefs say they will continue to target fraudsters after a pensioner who claimed over £58,000 he was not entitled to found himself in court.
Denis Noble, 70, from Hartlepool, fraudulently claimed a total of £58,621 in benefits over a six-year period while working as an ice cream man.
He continued to pocket pension credits while still working between 2005 and 2011.
Noble was told he was lucky not to be jailed for the fraud when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court.
It was after he earlier admitted two counts of failing to notify officials of a change in his circumstances at an earlier court hearing.
But he was spared jail after the court heard he was of previous good character and had health problems including suffering from emphysema.
A DWP spokesman said: “He was receiving pension credit for himself and his partner on the grounds he was unemployed and without any other income or savings.
“But he was found to be working as an ice cream man and had a van.”
Pension credits were introduced by the Government 10 years ago to combat pensioner poverty,
It is a means-tested benefit that tops up pensioners’ weekly income if it is below £145.40 for single people or £222.05 for couples.
The court heard Noble had planned to retire at 60 but restarted the business because of money troubles and after his grandson was disqualified from driving.
His barrister Michael Bosomworth said he felt “great shame” at finding himself in the crown court for the first time in his life.
Noble, of Burbank Court, Hartlepool, was given 18 months’ prison but Judge Tony Briggs suspended the sentence for two years.
He said it had been “a close run thing”.
Noble is now paying the money back at a rate of £100 a month.
The DWP spokesman added: “This case shows how we are working hard to close the net on benefit fraudsters, and make sure those who try to play the system are brought to justice.
“It is a small minority who aim to defraud the benefit system, but the cheats need to know our investigators are on their tails, or in this case following the chimes.”
Noble declined to comment when contacted at his home yesterday by the Mail.